An article published in the Belgrade daily “Politika” on June 27, 2005, pp. 1-2, regarding the imprisonment of the canonical Archbishop of Ochrid and Metropolitan of Skopje, Kyr Jovan, entitled “Father Jovan in Idrizovo Prison” and under the byline of reporters M. Tomovski and B. Bakovic, includes a statement by Bishop Metodije of Velic of the apostate Macedonian Orthodox Church. Unfortunately, none of what the statement says happens to be true.
First, in this particular instance there is no “conflict between Churches” but a conflict between one of the local Orthodox Churches [i.e. the autocephalous Autonomous Archdiocese of Ochrid] and an apostate religious organization calling itself the Macedonian Orthodox Church (MOC) despite the fact that it is not in ecumenical unity with other Orthodox Churches, and that its autocephaly is self-proclaimed, and acknowledged and recognized by no other Orthodox Church.
Second, it appears that the “goodwill” of the leaders of the so-called MOC, their “commitment to dialogue and cooperation” with the Serbian Orthodox Church, and their efforts that “the conflict… is resolved as painlessly as possible” (!) can best be seen and understood from the most recent history of the last instance in Europe and unique case in the world of persecution of the Orthodox Church from the torching of monasteries being built, the beating up monks, the humiliation of nuns, the brutal threats against the faithful to the shameful imprisonment of the Head of an Autonomous Orthodox Church recognized by all Orthodox Churches, Archbishop Jovan, in Skopje’s Idrizovo Prison so that he can continue, in the company of criminals, to incite “religious and national hatred”. It is hardly necessary to mention in addition the manner in which border officials of the Republic of Macedonia greet and treat bishops and priests of the Serbian Orthodox Church at border crossings… That the leaders of the apostate MOC are hardly innocents in this whole history of lack of honor and reason but on the contrary the active agitators of persecution, the real agitators of hatred toward the Serbian and Greek Churches and their peoples (and towards others) and accomplices in the regime of police terror against the Archdiocese of Ochrid is a claim we have evidence to support. If that is not the case, let Kyr Metodije of Velic or any other member of the apostate clergy publicly condemn violence as a method of “dialogue” among christened people, let him distance himself from terror against Archbishop Jovan and against his compatriots and co-citizens whose sole “guilt” lies in the fact that they do not want to be in a state apostasy but in the [canonically recognized] Church! Only then will their current hypocritical statements about dialogue and the least painful solution (and it’s well known where it’s located!) begin to be somewhat convincing.
Third and last: the acme of violence against truth which the new apostate leader allows himself is the claim that Serbian Patriarch Pavle supposedly “initially favored the idea” that “the Churches should communicate eucharistically” (we wonder whether we owe this “expert” and “Orthodox” theological terminology to the speaker himself or to the interpreters of his genial thoughts) so that “all problems are resolved through liturgical communications”. Serbian Patriarch Pavle - in whose life and spiritual maturity, wisdom and theological knowledge we are more convinced that any apostate sage or theological illiterate - has never favored such an idea. From the viewpoint of Orthodox ecclesiology (the study of the Church) it is senseless, impossible and actually strange. Translated into ordinary, normal and every day language, what this means is “You should recognize us apostates as Orthodox, legalize the state of apostasy (for “communication” for Metodije of Velic, that is, unity or community, means there is no apostasy, that only one Church exists, that there is no guilt or guilty party for the state of apostasy…) and then say what you will; we will laugh at you! This statement on the part of the apostate Kyr Metodije of Velic proves only two things: what he thinks of our intelligence and the limits of his own personal intelligence.
Just one more note: according to the teaching of the Holy Fathers of the Orthodox Church, the sin of apostasy cannot be washed away even by the martyr’s blood of its advocates. The statement of the theologically helpless and ecumenically irresponsible bishop of the self-proclaimed MOC irrefutably the attested truth confirmed by the experience of the Church that every apostasy, if there is no timely repentance on the part of the apostates, legally is transformed into heresy. This is also the claim of the modern confessor of Orthodox faith, Archbishop Jovan of Ochrid and it is unintentionally confirmed by the man who provoked this rebuttal.
Also incomprehensible is the thesis of “Politika’s” correspondents that “officials of the Macedonian state have been restrained in their reactions with respect to church conflicts”. If the measure of their restraint is that they have imprisoned the head of one of the sides in the conflict, what do they need to do so that “Politika” in Belgrade can figure out that perhaps they are not so restrained?
The author of these lines claims for his part and in conclusion that Jovan of Ochrid is absolutely free in spirit even in Idrizovo Prison in Skopje, and that the spiritual slaves who sent him there, among them the apostate bishop of Velic, deserve our pity.
Bishop Irinej of Backa